It all began way back in the seventies. Our founders, Pete and Laura Wakeman, were just a couple of college kids who baked amazing scratch-made whole grain bread to help pay their tuition at Cornell University. Newly married in 1975, the adventurous couple hiked the entire north-south length of Montana, falling in love with "Big Sky Country." So much so that they never left, establishing the first Great Harvest bakery in Great Falls, Montana in 1976.
Word spread fast about their uniquely flavorful bread made with pure and simple ingredients and wheat purchased from local farmers. It didn't take long before neighbors asked about starting up their own Great Harvest. In 1978, the Freedom Franchise was born and the second Great Harvest bakery opened in Kalispell, Montana.
Slowly and organically
Great Harvest began to grow from a Montana bakery into the nation's first family of independently-owned and operated whole grain bread bakeries and cafes. Though we’re no longer just a Montana bread company, our corporate headquarters remain in Dillon, Montana and we are true to our Montana roots.
The essence of Montana that charmed the Wakemans still influences the core of our corporate culture. Authenticity, a spirit of camaraderie and individuality remain the foundation of the organization. It turns out those values appeal to people in all 50 states. Today there are more than 200 Great Harvest bakery and cafe franchises located across the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii — and all of our franchise owners come to Montana to see what Great Harvest is about.
In 2001, the Wakemans sold the company and today it is owned by Great Harvest employees and officers, including CEO Mike Ferretti and President Eric Keshin. All of the owners are passionate about preserving and strengthening the Great Harvest philosophy through outstanding customer experience and phenomenal tasting products made with freshly milled whole grain and pure and simple ingredients.
Great Harvest's enduring strength is its mission to "Be loose and fun, bake phenomenal bread, run fast to help customers, create strong exciting bakeries, and give generously to others." This Mission Statement has attracted bakery cafe owners who are community minded, entrepreneurial, fun, and committed to creating fresh and flavorful products at family-friendly neighborhood hangouts.